How Dominic McGregor helped to create 750 jobs by turning Social Chain into a $200m turnover business

IT’s a question which has taxed the finest minds for centuries.

Praetura Ventures’ Operational Partner. Dominic McGregor. He was the co-founder and ex-COO of Social Chain, one of Europe’s fastest-growing social media agencies.

Are entrepreneurs born or made? Dominic McGregor, who left university to establish a global business, believes all great leaders have similar qualities, and these innate strengths can be enhanced through experience.

He said: “One common trait is emotional intelligence and humility. Entrepreneurial skills can be learned in action and also through mentoring.”

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Mr McGregor, who is from York, is best known as the co-founder of Social Chain, one of Europe’s fastest-growing social media agencies.

Alongside his co-founder Steven Bartlett, Mr McGregor grew Social Chain from a standing start to a $200m turnover business with more than 750 staff in offices around the world, including New York, Berlin and London.

He built a client portfolio that included some of the world’s biggest brands, such as Amazon, McDonald’s and the BBC, before listing Social Chain on the German stock exchange in 2019.

He has now joined Praetura Ventures, the venture capital investor, as an operational partner, because he wants to help others succeed. The Manchester-based venture capital firm invests in early-stage, high-growth businesses across the UK.

In 2019, Praetura Ventures led a £1.5m funding round investment in Leeds-headquartered independent games studio and virtual reality developer XR Games, alongside existing investor ACT Capital Partners. With this support in place, XR Games has developed its portfolio and expanded its partnerships with Hollywood film studios and media companies.

In September 2020, Praetura Ventures also invested £1m in RapidSpike, a Leeds-based tech company that helps businesses defend themselves against customer-focused cyber attacks.

His own career journey started as “a little bit of an accident”, according to Mr McGregor.

“Back in 2013, some people were questioning whether social media would be the future,” he recalled. “We spoke to lots of brands who were looking to reach young people and students. We decided to turn it into a business. We were banging the drum for social media and teaching companies how to use it.

“We told them social media really was going to be the next big thing,” he said. “We went into America and Germany and were capable of serving clients on a global scale, where the budgets are so much bigger.

“We were very quick to globalise and had the ability to diversify revenue streams. From the start, our aim was to take the business public. After seven years we achieved that, which was the pinnacle of our success. It was mission accomplished.”

He believes Yorkshire’s economy has bright times ahead.

“Over the last few years there have been some fantastic businesses coming out of Yorkshire, such as Team17 (the video games developer). The boom for Yorkshire is coming. If I was looking to grow a business, Yorkshire is the place I would do it.

“There has been so much investment in Leeds, especially from Channel 4. Channel 4 will help to attract talent from London and help with talent development.

“You will really see the impact of Channel 4’s arrival over the next five to 10 years.”

So what persuaded him to join the Praetura Ventures team?

“I enjoy working with entrepreneurs and this role provides me with the opportunity to be close to people who are starting companies in the region, where I hope to share my own expertise,” he said.

“The team there are ambitious and balanced, with a real wealth of knowledge from a range of backgrounds. I was also inspired by their portfolio partner businesses. Each has their own incredible story coupled with a clear passion for changing and redefining their industry.

“I’ve always been drawn to helping build and shape strategies for businesses like these. Praetura is perfectly positioned to help these companies and I wanted to be part of that.

“Social Chain’s growth didn’t come without its hurdles. I would have made a lot more mistakes if it hadn’t been for a team of advisers around me.

“As a young northern entrepreneur, I now get to help others make the best decisions they can. I dropped out of university and started a business with little experience.

“I had to learn fast, adapt quickly and deal with unexpected problems. This role is about readying our founders for growth and helping them tackle the issues that comes with it. The best advice always came to me from those who have faced what I’d faced.

“Praetura Ventures has a real skill for finding and supporting business potential.”

He also wants to offer more personal support.

“Too often we overlook a business owner’s wellbeing, someone who can relate to their personal issues day to day can make a real difference,” he said.

These humanitarian concerns are reflected in his work away from the boardroom, where he has helped people who have struggled with alcohol.

“Over the last two to three years, I have helped 100 people get through their alcohol dependency. Some of them had contemplated suicide. Helping people is something I am very passionate about.

“You can go through periods of adversity and come out a better person.”

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